If you are looking for ways to improve your writing, one of my favorite resources is Dave Farland's Daily Kick in the Pants. It is an email that comes to you, not exactly daily, but pretty close. One email the other day talked about who to trust when it comes to writing advice. The obvious answer was the person who has done it the longest and is the most successful. While I totally agree with this, I think it goes a little further than that. Why? Because even the most seasoned authors have different opinions on the best way to write. As Dave pointed out, just because someone can write, doesn't mean they know how to tell someone else how to write.
So what is a new writer to do? Well, for one thing: WRITE! All the writing advice in the world will do you no good if you are not sitting everyday putting pen to paper, or finger to keyboard. It isn't easy. Just look at my numbers for the last few days. Part of my problem is that there is so much writing advice that is going through my head. I have all the advice I tell my clients that I see make their stories stronger, I have all the advice that I've read in great books such as Characters and Viewpoint or The First Five Pages, I've got all the advice I've learned from going to workshops and con panels with amazing author's such as Orson Scott Card's Literary Boot Camp or LTUE or Worldcon, I've got all the advice I've gathered while having lunch with Brandon Sanderson or Dave Wolverton/Farland, or Dan Wells. It is all up there swimming in my head. These people are the best at what they do. I've sat with them, picked their brains, found what worked for them. So what is my problem?
Well, sometimes their advice, no matter how good it sounds, goes against one another's. What worked for one author, was different for another. Everyone has their own plot structure or unique outlining method, and don't get me wrong, everyone of their ideas is excellent. I love making Character Sheets based on the outline found in Gail Carson Levine's Writing Magic. I love plotting out my story on Dan Wells 7 point structure. But they each seem to be giving me different advice. They are only telling me what worked for them.
While there are a few musts in this industry: you must have compelling characters, you must have a plot that is intriguing, you must have a beginning, middle, and end, the way you get there might be very different than the way they got there--and it might be the exact same. So, what should you do? My advice, for what it is worth, is to keep reading those books, keep going to those cons and workshops, listen to what they tell you and try it. If it works for you--great, if not, find what will. The most important thing is to keep an open mind. Don't get set in the idea that this is the way it has to be. There are many paths to the end of a book, but one of them is not sitting around and waiting for your book to be handed to you on a silver platter. You have to want it! You have to work for it! Read, learn, and most importantly Write! That book is in there, now make your own path to finding it!
And as always,